19th August 2016

The 2nd Arab-Irish Business Forum was held on 15 April, 2016 at Dublin Castle.  The Forum was organised by the Arab-Irish Chamber, Enterprise Ireland, Emirates Airline, Bord Bia and The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, and was supported by Clyde & Co. and Jenkinson Logistics. 

Over 200 delegates, including Ambassadors, were welcomed by the Chairman of the AICC, Joe Geoghegan, who highlighted the importance of the Arab markets for Ireland and outlined the significant opportunities on offer to Irish companies in the region.  Business leaders from the Arab world joined their Irish counterparts, where it was announced that Irish exports to the Middle East are set to reach €6bn by 2017.


Joe Geoghegan, Chairman of the AICC

According to Ahmad Younis, CEO of the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce: “This announcement on Irish exports really demonstrates the scale of possibilities and opportunities for Irish businesses in the region.  Should this growth trend continue, it is anticipated that by 2020, 16,000 new jobs would be supported by Irish exports to the Arab world, almost doubling its current number.” 


Ahmad Younis, Secretary-General & CEO of the AICC with His Excellency Dr. Saeed Mohamed Ali Al Shamsi, Ambassador of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates

Setting the Scene:  Opportunities and Risks in the Middle East

Trevor McFarlane, Founder and Chief Executive of Emir, was the moderator for the day.  Trevor advises c-level executives from a wide range of companies. He speaks regularly and moderates at conferences, presents to board and ministerial level and hosts Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast Radio Show.  During the course of the Forum, Trevor outlined the main trends and challenges currently influencing business strategy for Irish companies; and offered forward-looking analysis of the region, including a vitally important viewpoints on the business strategy needed to deal with major trends, such as political instability, low oil prices and currency issues.


Ahmad Younis, Secretary-General & CEO of the AICC with Trevor McFarlane, Founder and CEO of Emir

Keynote Address:  Gerard Lawless

The keynote speaker was Gerard Lawless, Head of Tourism and Hospitality, Dubai Holdings.  Gerard served 18 years with the Jumeirah Group as President & CEO. He is presently Chairman of the World Trade & Tourism Council (WTTC).  Gerard gave his personal perspective based on 18 years of living and working in the UAE.


 Gerard Lawless – Keynote speaker

Strategic Advice: Getting Market Ready and Managing Your Success

The panel discussion on 'Getting Market Ready and Managing Your Success' comprised of Mishal Kanoo, Chairman of The Kanoo Group, one of the largest and longest-running family-owned companies in the Middle East, having been in business for over 125 years; Martin McGuigan, Partner, Aon Hewitt, Middle East, which attracts and retains the best talent in the Middle East; and Mirna Sleiman, Head of Governments, EMNA, Thomson Reuters, who manages and grows business and market share within the governments segment.

The Practicalities & Legalities of Doing Business in the Region:  Clyde & Co.

Niall O’Toole, Partner and Stephen Mc Kenna, Senior Associate are two Irish lawyers based in the UAE with Clyde & Co, who outlined the practicalities and legalities of doing business in the region. They gave critically important advice on issues such as agency and partnership agreements, the different options available when setting up a local presence in the region, employment law and much more.


Stephen Mc Kenna, Senior Associate and Niall O’Toole, Partner  – Clyde & Co.

Feed the Gulf Region: Opportunities and Implications for Irish companies

Ali Omar Abdualla, Director of Policy and Strategy at the Food Security Centre, Abu Dhabi, gave an insightful overview on food security.


Enda Corneille, Country Manager – Ireland, Emirates with Ali Omar Abdulla, Director of Policy and Strategy – Food Security Centre, Abu Dhabi.

Focus on Newer Markets

Abdelhakim Marrakchi, Hany Salam and Mohammad Tahboub gave their observations and experience into three very different markets: Morocco, Egypt and Jordan.

Abdelhakim Marrackchi is the CEO of Maghreb Industries and Vice-President of the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM) and President of CGEM International Commission.  He is also the former Vice-Chairman of the Moroccan Council for Food Industry.

Hany Salam is the Managing Director of Salamtex, a limited partnership textile company and family business, which was established in 1936.  Hany is a board director of the Textile Export Council, the Egyptian Chamber of Apparel and Home Textile Industries and the Egyptian-Belgian Business Association.

Mohammad Tahboub is co-founder of Bayanat, a successful IT Solutions Provider in Jordan and the Middle East region.  Mohammad is a board director on the Jordan Chamber of Commerce and the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce.


Joe Geoghegan, Chairman of the AICC, Mirna Sleiman, Head of Governments, EMNA, Thomson Reuters, Mohammad Tahboub is co-founder of Bayanat and Gerard Lawless, Head of Tourism and Hospitality, Dubai Holdings

Market Case Studies

Market case studies were presented by Miagen, Teddy Murphy, Chief Executive, Keogh’s Farm, Tom Keogh, Managing Director and Blackwater Engineering, Colman Doyle, Operations Director

What to Plan for the coming 12 months was presented by Trevor McFarlane, Founder and Chief Executive of Emir.

Presentation of Forum Outstanding Achievement Award was presented to Alastair McGuckian, Chairman, M21

The Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce has presented Alastair McGuckian with an Outstanding Achievement Award in recognition of the Antrim businessman’s major contribution to the development of Arab-Irish trade. Widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the vertically integrated dairy industry, Alastair is founder and former CEO of Masstock, which he established in 1970 with his brother, Paddy.

Masstock helped establish a modern day dairy industry in Saudi Arabia and, in 1977, founded Almarai, (meaning the pasture in Arabic) a joint venture with Prince Sultan Bin Mohamed Bin Saud Al Kabeer. Almarai became the leading food company in the Middle East with 40,000 employees and a 65% share of the milk market in Saudi Arabia together with one of the largest dairy herds of its type in the world.

Almarai was established as part of a general movement in Saudi Arabia to achieve food security through self-sufficiency, with Alastair McGuckian widely credited as the driving force behind the enterprise.


Alistair McGuckian

Joe Geoghegan, Chairman of the AICC, commented: “Who’d have thought it would be possible to establish a dairy farm of such scale in the middle of the desert, but that’s what the McGuckian brothers did. Alastair has led the way for the more than 450 Irish companies doing business in the Middle East and Gulf region today, and Masstock/Almarai is a wonderful example of what can be achieved in what has become a land of opportunity for Irish businesses.”

Presentation by the Jordan Chamber to the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce

To round off the proceedings on the day, a Director of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce and guest speaker, Mr. Mohammad Tahboub, presented the Arab-Irish Chamber will a plaque.  Mr. Tahboub thanked the Chamber for their continued success and for their efforts with Arab-Irish trade and relations.

Jordan Chamber.JPG

 Ahmad Younis, Secretary-General & CEO of the AICC, Evelyn Harrington, Manager Trade Services, AICC, Joe Geoghegan, Chairman of the AICC, Mohammad Tahboub is co-founder of Bayanat along with directors of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce